I've been a Windows user since 3.1, up to and including Vista. I didn't use every version in between - I still ran Windows 98 until 2009, it did everything I needed so I didn't see the point of paying considerable sums of money for upgrades, until eventually the elderly home-built hardware became troublesome and I bought a laptop with Vista.
Vista was fine for me at first, despite the bad press, but it quickly became slow, sluggish and bogged down - booting took a good five minutes, and even after the desktop appeared it remained sluggish for another 5 minutes until I could start doing anything. Something had to be done. I could try reinstalling Vista from the recovery disks but I balked at the thought of how long it would take after install to do years worth of updates. Windows 7 was on the scene by that point, but again it was a considerable cost.
I'd discovered and played with Knoppix at some point by this time, but I didn't really think it was serious, a "real" OS. After all, if the Windows OS costs so much, how can an OS that's given away for free be any good?
But still, I had to do something about Vista so I googled Knoppix again, and discovered that it was far from the only free OS, and far from the best, and that yes, these free OS's are taken quite seriously. It dawned on me that I'd been using FOSS for some time - Gimp, Firefox, OpenOffice - and these were full-featured pieces of kit, not just toys. So I took it seriously. I quickly homed in on this one called Linux Mint, in that it was beginner-friendly and familiar to Windows ex-pats, was well supported for drivers and codecs and had a good forum for support (hi
), and a software centre where you can find and install all your apps - wow! No more trawling the internet and downloading installers of unknown trustworthiness.
I can't quite remember what version it was, I think it was 12, but after playing with live sessions for a while, I took the plunge, wiped Vista and installed Mint. What a breath of fresh air - so fast, so slick, so much more space on my HDD. So many options, so much I could change and alter. I switched back and forth between desktop environments and add-ons and had to reinstall a few times after I messed up but even that was easy compared to the thought of reinstalling Windows.
But after a while it got a bit tiresome. Some first impressions left a bit to be desired, I tried to keep in mind that it was free after all, I shouldn't expect too much. Some things felt a bit amateur and not ready for release to the wide world. I liked Cinnamon, but I think it was in its early days and it was buggy and incomplete. I was spending as much time configuring, getting things working, searching forums and Google for workarounds for things that "just worked" on Windows, as I was actually using the system. I didn't need to post much on the forum because I found older posts for the same issues, but I kept comimg up against the attitude that if the problem was that "I can't do X that I used to do on Windows", the response was "well Linux is not Windows!". Not really the point, and not helpful.
After a few months of trying, I paid up for Windows 7 and wiped Linux. I'd tried, but maybe it wasn't for me. I was comfortable back in Windows. It was miles better than Vista, and things "just worked" again.
Then came Windows 10. I got sick of being pestered to upgrade, and realised it was inevitable as Win 7 would soon go the way of XP, so I may as well take the upgrade while it's free. So I did. It was back to "first impressions" again. It felt unfinished and botched, like they'd taken bits of Windows 7, butchered them for the sake of change and left it as a half-baked mix of old and new. It was confusing and it looked terrible. Then I found the security and privacy controls. You're collecting what? And I can't turn it off?! And oh, the updates. I'd turn the laptop on... "please wait, installing updates"... it's ok Microsoft, I didn't actually want to use my laptop tonight. I'd shut it down - "please wait, installing updates" - erm I shut it down because I had other places to go / things to do... nevermind. Thee, four hours at a time. Each one to give me new features I had no interest in. Not to mention the garbage that installs itself without asking and places itself in the Start menu. Candy Crush? Go away. The system was getting sluggish again, to the point of unusable. It was running hotter and hotter too, even on light tasks, to the point of real concern - it was going to push my now-elderly laptop over the edge.
So I decided to give Linux another go, but expected that over the years since I first tried it, Mint would have left my old hardware behind and I'd have to try something lighter. So I asked some questions here and was recommended to try MATE. I did, to my surprise it worked, and I liked it. I agonised for a while over how to run it, specifically how to arrange a Windows 10 dual-boot - I'd probably need a bigger HDD. Then one day I thought, blow it, erased the Windows partition and installed Mint... and here I am.
I'm pleased to say Mint had matured a lot since I first tried it, it seems more complete, more professional, less buggy. I don't need to do as much in the terminal as I did before, but I do anyway because I'm familiar with it now, and it's quicker. The forum has matured too, I've not come across any of the old "Linux is not Windows" - maybe the gaps have been filled - Linux can now do all that Windows can do. It "just works", for me at least. I've still got stuff to do, still some things to fix and get working properly. I thought I'd still need Windows for one or two things, but a few months on, I can't remember what. The Windows 10 ISO that I downloaded just in case is still sitting there unused, I might as well delete it.